Creating Cambridge University’s Only Weekly Jazz Jam
Jazz in the Bar at Homerton College has become the most exciting regular live music night in the University of Cambridge. Here’s how it happened… Shortly after arriving at the University of Cambridge, I helped establish a weekly jazz jam session in the Griffin Bar at Homerton College. These jams were timed to begin after the Homerton College weekly formal dinners on Tuesday nights at 9pm. In the beginning, there were just a few musicians against a system that was not really interested in having us play jazz. After all, we were trying something new and it required co-ordinating multiple departments in the college.
Summer Jazz at
Homerton Jazz Orchestra (HoJO)
After an enormous amount of persistent and consistent demands over more than a year by keyboard-ace Chris Magazzeni and I, attitudes started to change. Not only did the students want us there, the heads of the college wanted us there and they made the staff very aware of that. Doors started to open for us and departments that weren’t communicating with us or each other were suddenly contacting us to make sure that we were getting the resources that we needed. “The Homertones” (you can blame me for the name) started playing music that matched the themed evenings such as “The Great Gatsby”, “James Bond Night” as well as “The Week 5 Blues” (a common Cambridge ailment).
Homerton College suddenly had something the other Cambridge colleges did not: a smokin’ house band!
Jazz in the Bar: Year 2
At the start of the second year, Jazz in the Bar joined forces with the Homerton Union of Students, Homerton Music Society and five different college departments to make sure that we were providing an amazing resource for the entire college. Building on our momentum and growing reputation from the previous year, we had a nearly-overwhelming amount of great musicians from all around Cambridge visiting us on Tuesday nights. This included students and local professionals wanting to be a part of the buzz.
I am ridiculously proud of what we achieved. For our ongoing efforts, Chris Magazzeni and I were awarded Homerton College’s Student Representation Award; a prize usually reserved for varsity sports achievement and rarely given for music. A big mention to those that made huge contributions and built the foundation: Felix Jackson, Toby White, and Coleman Chan.
I once heard Dave Wolpe’s arrangement of ‘Lady is a Tramp’ played by three Cambridge big bands in the same concert, so establishing a fresh and cohesive repertoire was a priority!
Homerton Mardi Gras Formal
Big Band Bonanza
Cambridge Jazz Festival
Exporting our Successful Model
Emerging from Jazz in the Bar, have been several semi-professional bands including The Homertones and the Magazzeni/Olsen ensemble, The OJB (Olsen Jazz Band). At the start of the 2016-2017 Cambridge academic year, we were asked by five different colleges to provide a “Jazz in the Bar experience” for them during the first week of term:
Trinity, Emmanuel, Newnham, Homerton and Darwin Colleges.
Since then, we have regularly been bringing our lively sound to Cambridge-based events such as May Balls, private parties and corporate affairs. I have no doubt that Homerton will be the biggest exporter of jazz talent in years to come.
All Good Things…
In September 2017, I stepped down from co-ordinating Jazz in the Bar and have passed my responsibilities to a newly-formed student-led committee. I have no doubt that Homerton Jazz will continue to evolve and thrive as a Homerton institution.
If you want to check out Jazz in the Bar, I would suggest following the Homerton Jazz Facebook page.